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Guide to Choosing the right Tech Stack

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Development
18 min read
best tech stack
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The right technology or “tech stack” can make all the difference when it comes to bringing your startup idea or software application to life.

It is also one of the first decisions that need to be made, after the initial discovery process. This decision can impact many areas of your product (and project); how much you spend building your product, the quality, and stability of the platform, the performance, scalability, and even the speed of your development team. We’re talking about a make-or-break decision.

This article is intended to help you understand the advantages of choosing the right technology stack for your application and how to avoid choosing the wrong one.

The Basics of Software Development Stacks

Front-end back-end software tech graphic

Determining the programming languages and technologies that make up your technology stacks is not an easy task. For example, even if you take a simple example of optimizing for development costs, what do you pick when you have one technology that has a smaller development community, but that same technology is known for increasing developer productivity? Chances are, software developers will be more expensive for this programming language or technology, but the tradeoff might just be worth it.

Popularity within tech stacks is also a conundrum. The fact is, software developers, love to experiment with new and exciting technologies. Frameworks and libraries that are cutting-edge and seem to solve a number of the problems that an engineer is familiar with can be very attractive for new projects. Yet, any senior software engineer will tell you that the majority of new technologies end up being phased out in due time. Sometimes working with well-established technologies that have a proven track record is the safer bet here. Following the most current development trends is not always a win.

A modern web application generally consists of three pillars: front-end development technology, back-end development technology, and database technology. While applications can grow in complexity to have numerous front-ends, back-ends, or databases when it comes to startup application development you typically only deal with one of each. Here is a breakdown of these three pillars:

  1. Front-end technology. Your front-end technology operates on the client side (typically within the browser) and contains all the visual characteristics of the application. In other words, the technology chosen here will be responsible for crafting the user interface and user experience of your application. In today’s world of web development and mobile app development, front-end user experiences can be quite complex. Thus, there is a wide range of programming languages and popular frameworks designed to help software developers build intricate experiences.
  2. Back-end technology. Your back-end technology contains and manages all the “hidden” business logic and calculations the application performs. In some senses, your back-end technology is the glue of your application as it interfaces directly with the other two pillars (the database and the front-end). To keep things simple, your back-end is responsible for responding to the server requests with a set of data. Doing so may involve various computations or handling of the logic associated with your business.
  3. Database technology. Your database stores all the data from your customers and any derived data that your application generates or gathers during the lifetime of the application. Essentially, any data that needs to persist over time in order for your application to function will be stored in your database.

A decision is necessary on the right technology for each pillar of your technology stack. A decision on one pillar may also affect the remaining pillars as well, as certain technologies work better in tandem. Let’s take a look at each pillar. 

Choosing a Front-end Stack

There is any number of software frameworks available out there, but in the interest of time, and to focus on options that are well-documented and “production-ready”, for lack of a better term, we’ll focus on the top 5 options for your front-end tech stack. The list below outlines the strengths and weaknesses of these frameworks, along with their popularity. Some of the core factors that many business owners care about when choosing a front-end technology are popularity, size of the development community, cost of maintenance, ease of building user interfaces, and more.

React.js

Pros of React.js

Cons of React.js

Companies Using React.js

Popularity of React.js

Vue.js

Pros of Vue.js

Cons of Vue.js

Companies Using Vue.js

Popularity of Vue.js

Angular

Pros of Angular.js

Cons of Angular.js

Companies Using Angular.js

Popularity of Angular.js

Svelte

Pros of Svelte

Cons of Svelte

Companies Using Svelte

Popularity of Svelte

Next.js

Pros of Next.js

Cons of Next.js

Companies Using Next.js

Popularity of Next.js

Front-end Summary

There are numerous other options, but the above are some of the key players in the market, and as you can see, each of these top players has its own pros and cons. These tools are tried and tested, and one should fit your needs. You want a tool that has a development community supporting it, and that fits the job you are trying to do, not the shiniest new tool that appeared 3 months ago. Let’s look at three possible use cases:

  1. A small, single-page form that captures user information and stores it: React
  2. A content-heavy website, a blog for example Next.js
  3. A large-scale web application with hundreds of modules: Angular

Choosing a Back-end Stack

As with the front-end, there are numerous options available. And again, each has pros and cons that will help you choose the option that best fits your business use case. Note that in addition to the pros and cons, some back-end solutions may integrate better with your front-end selection.

Laravel

Pros of Laravel

Cons of Laravel

Companies Using Laravel 

Ruby on Rails

Pros of Ruby on Rails

Cons of Ruby on Rails

Companies Using Ruby on Rails 

Express.js

Pros of Express.js

Cons of Express.js

Companies Using Express.js

Django

Pros of Django

Cons of Django

Companies Using Django

Spring

Pros of Spring

Cons of Spring

Companies Using Spring

Back-end Summary

Back-end programming languages and frameworks are important to have a close look at. You want something that has been around for long enough that you know it won’t disappear on you. Having a strong community with robust documentation and support is also key for developers. Here are a few examples of use cases for the different frameworks above.

Three examples of use cases:

  1. A banking app that deals with lots of transactions: Spring
  2. A real-time chat app: Express.js
  3. An expense tracker with cloud sync: Ruby on Rails

The strengths and weaknesses above lend themselves to particular use cases, and each will work with the front-end selections above. However, some integrate better than others. If there are questions beyond use-case, we can help.

Now, let’s take a look at that last pillar.

Choosing the Right Database Technology

As with the front-end and back-end selections, the database selection depends very much on your business logic, and on the amount and type of data that your application needs to support. The bad news is that no single database option provides all of the advantages/features you may need to meet your use case. The good news is that there is no need to limit yourself to just one type of database when planning your architecture. Let’s take a look at some of the more common database technologies.

PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL is a SQL-based relational database. It is great for storing relational data, such as user registration or account info. Most applications, especially in the startup world, will find PostgreSQL to be more than efficient for their use case and scalability needs.

MongoDB

MongoDB is a no-SQL document store. It thrives off of data that is non-relational and may come in different shapes and sizes. MongoDB and other document stores are useful for specific use cases. An example of an application that might benefit greatly from MongoDB is a geospatial social network with real-time updates.

Redis

Redis is a No-SQL key-value store. It is very common for temporary data to be stored in a Redis database. Examples of situations where Redis might be helpful are caching or storing data related to background jobs.

InfluxDB

Like Redis, InfluxDB is a No-SQL key-value store. InfluxDB is a time series database, which makes it optimal for time-stamped or time series data. A system to store and query IoT data related to solar energy management might find InfluxDB an optimal database.

As we stated, applications may require multiple databases to handle different types of data.

Summary

As you can see above, the choice of the tech stack is not a decision to take lightly. Every application should have a modern tech stack that aligns with business goals. Choosing the wrong stack can be detrimental to a business.

At Flatirons Development, our team of developers loves to look at common tech stacks and match them with your project development needs. After initial discovery, providing us details on the business model, the subjects utilizing the platform, the volume of data, and the concurrency of the app, a decision on the technologies required to accomplish the task should be relatively easy. Choosing the right software tools can save you time, money, and headaches down the road. It is possible to migrate to another framework if a mistake is made, but this will likely cost you as much as the initial version, or possibly more if the application has grown since. Not to mention the often daunting task of finding talented developers that want to migrate a legacy application to a different stack. If you have any questions about the right combination of technologies to meet your needs, Flatirons Development can help. We enjoy working with popular technologies that are well-established and reliable, minimizing the risk that they will disappear a year from now.

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